Court orders Bayelsa to return oil well to Rivers
The Federal high Court in Abuja on Monday ordered the return of Soku oil fields from Bayelsa State to its rightful owner, Rivers State.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted by Rivers State, Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered the National Boundary Commission to effect the transfer by rectifying the error in its 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria, which designated San Bartholomew River, instead of River Santa Barbara, as the boundary between the two states.
According to the judge, the error, which was said to have surfaced in the 11th Edition of Administrative Map produced by the NBC in 2002, has negatively impacted the oil revenues accruable to Rivers State from the Federation Account due to the loss of the Soku Oil Field.
He, therefore, made “an order directing that the notice of the decision of this honourable court be served on the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Accountant General of the Federation” to enable them to start acting on the new map in computing the additional oil revenues accruable to Rivers State following its regaining of the oil field.
The Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on July 19, 2012 ordered the commission to rectify the error expeditiously by restoring Santa Barbara River as the interstate boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa states.
Citing the apex court’s judgment on Monday, Justice Ekwo said the NBC had in its letter dated July 3, 2002 replying Rivers State government’s protest admitted its mistake and promised to rectify it in the 12th edition of the administrative map but never did.
Failure of the NBC to rectify the mistake as promised made the Rivers State government, through its Attorney-general, to file a suit against the Attorney General of Bayelsa State and the Attorney General of the Federation before the Supreme Court in 2009.
The Supreme Court on July 10, 2012 ruled in favour of Rivers State and ordered the rectification of the error.
By August 22, 2019, when the mistake had yet to be corrected,
Rivers State Government instituted a suit before the Federal high Court in Abuja solely against the NBC seeking an order of mandamus compelling it to correct its error.
Granting the plaintiff’s prayers in his judgment delivered on Monday, Justice Ekwo held that “the continued failure and/or refusal of the defendant (NBC) to rectify its admitted mistake in the 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria since 2002, which erroneously showed San Bartholomew instead of River Santa Barbara as the interstate boundary between the plaintiff state and Bayelsa State, constitutes a breach of its statutory duty and a flagrant disobedience to the order of the Supreme Court contained in its judgment delivered on July 10, 2012 in suit with number SC.106/2009.”
It made “an order of mandamus or mandatory injunction compelling the defendant (NBS) to rectify forthwith in the 12th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria, the erroneous interstate boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State as contained in the extant 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria”.
The court also made an order “deeming the administrative boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa states to be River Santa Barbara in accordance with the admission of the defendant (NBC) as per its letter of July 3, 2002 and the definitive order of the Supreme Court entered and made on July 7, 2012.”
It also declared that “the continued reliance on the said defective 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria by other government agencies, statutory bodies, especially the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Accountant General of the Federation in computation of the revenue accruable to the plaintiff from the Federation Account has resulted in the continued unjust/unfair denial of allocation of derivation funds/ money accruing from the Soku Oil Fields/wells situated within the Rivers State to the detriment of the plaintiff.”
Reacting to the judgment, Governor Nyesom Wike said the state government would continue to fight and defend the interest of the state in order to promote the welfare of her people.
The governor, who spoke with journalists in Port Harcourt on Monday, added that the Soku oil wells/fields belonged to the Rivers State before they were illegally appropriated by the Federal Government for Bayelsa State.
He said, “The judgment is very proper. Everybody knows that it is wrong that the Federal Government collected our oil wells and ceded same to Bayelsa State. So, we took the right step by going to court.
“We sued the National Boundary Commission. By interpreting the Supreme Court judgment that for now, since you’re unable to demarcate the boundary, then let the oil wells be in Rivers State, where it used to be, pending when the National Boundary Commission is ready to implement the Supreme Court judgment.
“We are happy for what happened today. We don’t believe in fighting; we only believe in following due process.”